Greenhouse gas (N2O and CH4) fluxes under nitrogen-fertilised dryland wheat and barley on subtropical Vertosols: Risk, rainfall and alternatives

Schwenke, Graeme D., Herridge, David F., Scheer, Clemens, Rowlings, David W., Haigh, Bruce M., & McMullen, K. Guy (2016) Greenhouse gas (N2O and CH4) fluxes under nitrogen-fertilised dryland wheat and barley on subtropical Vertosols: Risk, rainfall and alternatives. Soil Research, 54(5), pp. 634-650.

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The northern Australian grains industry relies on nitrogen (N) fertiliser to optimise yield and protein, but N fertiliser can increase soil fluxes of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). We measured soil N2O and CH4 fluxes associated with wheat (Triticum aestivum) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) using automated (Expts 1, 3) and manual chambers (Expts 2, 4, 5). Experiments were conducted on subtropical Vertosol soils fertilised with N rates of 0-160kgNha-1.

In Expt 1 (2010), intense rainfall for a month before and after sowing elevated N2O emissions from N-fertilised (80kgNha-1) wheat, with 417gN2O-Nha-1 emitted compared with 80g N2O-Nha-1 for non-fertilised wheat. Once crop N uptake reduced soil mineral N, there was no further treatment difference in N2O. Expt 2 (2010) showed similar results, however, the reduced sampling frequency using manual chambers gave a lower cumulative N2O. By contrast, very low rainfall before and for several months after sowing Expt 3 (2011) resulted in no difference in N2O emissions between N-fertilised and non-fertilised barley. N2O emission factors were 0.42, 0.20 and -0.02 for Expts 1, 2 and 3, respectively. In Expts 4 and 5 (2011), N2O emissions increased with increasing rate of N fertiliser. Emissions were reduced by 45% when the N fertiliser was applied in a 50:50 split between sowing and mid-tillering, or by 70% when urea was applied with the nitrification inhibitor 3,4-dimethylpyrazole-phosphate.

Methane fluxes were typically small and mostly negative in all experiments, especially in dry soils. Cumulative CH4 uptake ranged from 242 to 435g CH4-Cha-1year-1, with no effect of N fertiliser treatment. Considered in terms of CO2 equivalents, soil CH4 uptake offset 8-56% of soil N2O emissions, with larger offsets occurring in non-N-fertilised soils.

The first few months from N fertiliser application to the period of rapid crop N uptake pose the main risk for N2O losses from rainfed cereal cropping on subtropical Vertosols, but the realisation of this risk is dependent on rainfall. Strategies that reduce the soil mineral N pool during this time can reduce the risk of N2O loss.

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ID Code: 98691
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: 3,4-dimethylpyrazole-phosphate (DMPP), ENTEC, Hordeum vulgare, Triticum aestivum
DOI: 10.1071/SR15338
ISSN: 1838-675X
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 CSIRO
Deposited On: 06 Sep 2016 23:29
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 00:05

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